The pipe factory under a Bath playground.

The old Blue Coat School whose playground was extended over the remains of the pipe factory.

The old Blue Coat School whose playground was extended over the remains of the pipe factory.

Turning an old factory site into a school playground seems to be the main reason some of its most important features have been saved – undisturbed by modern pipes or foundations – for archaeologists to now uncover.

The Saw Close once contained an important clay pipe factory which was demolished in 1859 and the land added to the playground of the Blue Coat School.

Now the area is being re-developed as a casino, hotel and restaurants and archaeologists are being allowed to record what is underneath before the piles go in to support the new buildings.

Excavations underway on the Saw Close site.

Excavations underway on the Saw Close site.

The good news is now they know where things are – and that includes very rare pipe kilns that are almost complete – the construction above will be undertaken in a way that preserves all that is underneath it and without causing further damage.

A poster advertising the open day. Click on images to enlarge.

A poster advertising the open day. Click on images to enlarge.

The public will get the chance of seeing what is happening – and examining some of the finds – when an Open Morning is held on Saturday, October 31st.

The Virtual Museum has been given a sneak preview and a chance to show you what you can go and see for yourselves.

Pipe making began in Bath in the late 1650’s though tobacco had arrived in the country a hundred years before. By the 19th century, there were small factories all over the city.

A pipe amongst hundreds coming out of the Saw Close site.

A pipe amongst thousands coming out of the Saw Close site.

Special clay would be imported in barrels from Devon and brought up the River Avon to Bath. The pipes were shaped and fired using local coal to heat the kilns.

In 1836, the Bridewell Lane Factory – here on the Saw Close – was taken over by Joseph Sants and by 1841 he employed at least 8 people. Ten years later it was ten or more.

However, the factory was doomed to closure when a renewal of its lease was refused on the grounds of the noisome nature of the industry and complaints about smoke from the factory.

Its remains have lain undisturbed – until now.

My thanks to John Cossins-Price – the Sanctus Site Manager – for letting the Virtual Museum film the excavations.